The Bigger Picture of Social Customer Service

Thousands of derailed Sydney-siders took to the airwaves and Twitter last Thursday, not just to moan about having their travel plans hi-jacked by the delays, track closures and diversions – but to complain that train operator RailCorp was slow to let them know what was going on.

RailCorp responded to some customers’ Tweets about the problems but in a follow-up interview with ABC Radio Sydney chief operating officer Tony Eid admitted the medium had been used “reactively”…

Partner at social media consultancy SR7 James Griffin said a whole-of-government strategy was well overdue.

RailCorp’s communications problems last week illustrated one of the ways in which social media was not being used correctly by the public sector, Griffin said.

NSW agencies currently had over 100 different Facebook pages – some of them set up incorrectly as profiles and others with questionable purpose, he claimed.

“I can’t understand why they haven’t started already – it’s a quick win and would generate political capital.”

There is definitely more that many organisations could be doing in terms of delivering better customer service online – and its not just government agencies that ignore or fail to engage their “customers” well through social media.

But I disagree that this is something that can be easily fixed in complex service delivery environments like public transport, as James Griffin from SR7 appears to be suggesting.

Even Queensland Rail who are a leading example of good social customer service using Twitter, only operate during business hours.

Sure, you can tidy up all your Facebook accounts and plaster a veneer of social customer service over your organisation, but if the staff, systems and processes aren’t able to support it then eventually you are going to fail.

It is important that delivering social customer service is scalable and maintainable over the long term – I mean, what happens when your internal social media expert goes on holiday, is sick or simply moves on to a new role? And as customer expectations rise, do you have the tools to track and respond to questions, meet information needs at the speed social media demands and also track individual issues to completion? Do you have processes for collecting and taking action on broader feedback gathered through social media monitoring?

This doesn’t mean I don’t also detect a hint of hesitation by Transport for NSW to utilise social media more effectively, but I understand in part why this is the case. I suspect like many large organisations, Transport for NSW need to focus internally before it can really deliver outstanding customer service online. Because if they then fail, the SMEGs are going to have a real field day with Transport for NSW.